Group aids Atascadero schools

A local nonprofit organization is urging community residents to support Atascadero schools.

“Because of all of the cutbacks with the state’s budget, there are many extra things the schools need that they can’t afford anymore,” said Keleen Miller, a member of the Committee for Atascadero Public Schools, or CAPS. “Every little thing we can do to benefit the kids is (good).”

Today, CAPS will hold its annual fundraiser in Atascadero.

Created four years ago, the all-volunteer organization provides annual educational grants to needy classrooms in the Atascadero Unified School District. Individual grants, which range from $100 to $1,500, pay for everything from projectors to yoga mats to xylophones.

In addition, CAPS runs the “Fund A Need” program to handle bigger-ticket items.

This year, the organization hopes to buy new uniforms for the Atascadero High School marching band. The current orange-and-white outfits have been worn by more than 2,000 students over the past quarter-century, according to the CAPS website.

“We feel it helps the teachers get things they need,” Miller said of the program.

Organizations such as CAPS, whose members include parents and teachers, are growing increasingly important as Atascadero Unified faces $3.7 million in potential cuts from the upcoming school year’s estimated budget of $33 million.

This spring, the district board of trustees voted to lay off 18 certificated employees and seven classified employees.

Other cost-cutting measures included unpaid furlough days and an early retirement incentive program.

CAPS gave out $72,680 in grants in 2009.

The organization hopes to raise $100,000 this year at this year’s fundraiser, “An Evening for Education — Reach for the Stars!” It takes place from 5 to 11 p.m. today at the Pavilion on the Lake, 9315 Pismo Ave. in Atascadero.

The event will feature appetizers, dinner and drinks, plus live music, dancing and silent and live auctions.

Tickets are $75 a person or $140 a couple.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 703-3350 or visit www.atascaderocaps.org.